Photo by Jon EstradaJonathan Thompson | High Country News

Anyone who remembers the Denver, Colorado of the 1980s can’t help but be blown away by the changes that have occurred in the three decades since. Back then, East Colfax was notorious statewide for its seediness, and sociology professors sent students to lower downtown, now known as LoDo — in threes for safety — to see blight and homelessness first-hand.

Today, LoDo is one of the most happening neighborhoods in the nation, a place where historic buildings that avoided the post-World War II bulldozers stand cheek to jowl with gleaming new mid-rise apartment and office buildings. There’s an urban bustle here not felt since back in the glory days of the late 19th Century, Denver is one of the hottest destinations for young educated folks, and even East Colfax is hip, if in a shabby-chic sort of way. It’s pretty great, if you can afford to live there. Many people can’t.

Gentrification, for better and for worse, has arrived in this once-modest mining, cattle and energy boom-and-bust town. Property values and rents have increased faster than wages, putting the new downtown apartments and the existing housing stock out of reach of the working class. And that, Mayor Michael Hancock said on the radio show Colorado Matters, is threatening the city’s very identity. “The vibrancy of this city is to have a diversity of residents,” Hancock told Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner. “We don’t want to ever be known as a city of just those who have.” Read more